Not every community has the pull of the People Republic of China, which can order up 25 square-miles of solar power panels with a stroke of the pen. So for the rest of us, Applied Materials is offering Farm2Fab.
| Coming soon to a city near you: solar industry in a box! The Fab2Farm demo has a real SimCity feel to it.
Applied is best known as a maker of equipment that makes computer chips (you think microprocessor manufacturing equipment makes itself?), but for the past four years AMAT has been building up its business making the equipment that makes solar panels.
But getting those panels on the ground can be tough (unless you’re in California).
Applied’s Fab2Farm plan is an attempt to link community economic development goals with local utilities and solar panel manufacturers. It’s centered on a plant that builds thin-film solar panel using Applied’s manufacturing process, which makes the panels for a local utility. The concept could create about 80 megawatts of solar panels per year (like a small natural gas-powered peaker plant), 2,500 jobs and $400 million to $500 million in economic activity locally, the company says.
“It’s our attempt to bring all the pieces together to kick-start the market,” said John Antone, vice president of Energy and Environmental Solutions for Applied Materials. “The market for the solar industry is generally small in most communities, but it you want to get the benefits of cheaper energy you have to scale it up.”
Yes, the project would rely on federal subsidies, but Antone argues the federal highway program and other significant infrastructure advancements in the country relied on central planning and support too. And as the McKinsey folks note, there’s plenty of potential in solar.
“When we look to a new kind of energy system to replace the existing framework there needs to be a bit of a kick start,” Antone said. “This model is a way to get things moving.”